Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Fall of A Pirate!


By Marcus M. Mottley


It is humbling. I was right. All those years of quietly and publicly criticizing Antigua’s so-called billionaire. All those years of castigating the Pirate of the Caribbean who lived in Antigua. All those years of going against the tide… when most people in Antigua… and indeed… throughout the Caribbean were enamored with him. All those years of being careful not to expose myself to the possibility of litigious retribution… but still ‘having my say’ and writing from the heart.

About five years ago I watched as the Pirate humbled an Antiguan (now a diplomat) who had similarly castigated him. The Pirate started legal proceedings against him. And in an infamous televised event, that Antiguan (who lives abroad) was forced ‘to eat crow’ in return for the Pirate’s withdrawal of the legal proceedings which he had started. In public… televised… that proud Antiguan stalwart supporter of the new government… in the presence of top political leaders… was forced to swallow his pride (well – it appeared that way), almost like he was begging pardon – shook the Pirate hand!

I have never forgotten that day. That was the moment when I knew… really knew… that the Pirate had to be fought and had to be brought to his knees. Now let me hasten to say that I had no hand in bringing him down… But I wished that I did! If I had the opportunity I would have.

In any case, the headlines speak to the reality of the fall that this once financial tyrant, the usurper who tried to bring our politicians to their knees (like he did that Antiguan), the individual who fed the corruption of many of our politicians. (Yes – many! – Most on the red side… but at least one on the blue side.)

“Tarnished tycoon is left ‘living on charity’”.
“No money to defend himself.”
”Homeless – living with 30 year old fiancee.”


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Allegiance to Queen Elizabeth?


By Mshaka


I am disconcerted… flabbergasted… totally upset by what I heard yesterday!

“I ‘……’  Solemnly swear that I will faithfully bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the second, her heirs and successors… according to law.”

I thought that there was a law in the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda that prohibits anyone from seeking to be elected as a parliamentary representative or serving as a Senator if that person has sworn allegiance to another country.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Constitution says that “No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator (or to be elected as a member of the House) who by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement or allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”

Yesterday, I watched as person after person, swore their allegiance to the Queen of England!  ‘By virtue of their own act’ all of them swore their allegiance to the head of a foreign state.

I was flabbergasted. And then I was upset and then… even angry. Why? Well… I cannot be appointed a senator. I cannot seek to be elected to the House. Although I am a born and bred Antiguan… and although I lived thirty-five of my years in Antigua… and although I continue to live and pay taxes in Antigua… and although from time to time I work in Antigua and contribute to the development of my country… I cannot be named a senator. I cannot seek to be elected to the House.

Why? Because I am a citizen of the United States of America. Just like Lester Bird. The difference they say… is because “By my own act” I swore allegiance to a foreign power or state!

So… Yesterday… I was flabbergasted when I heard all of those individuals… about to be appointed senators… swore allegiance to the Queen of England!

Today… I am still flabbergasted… maybe even more so!

Yes… I guess that I should have known. I guess that I have ignored listening to the swearing in ceremonies of the past.

But today… the hypocrisy of it… is unbearable. It is mindboggling that you can swear allegiance to the sons and daughters of those who enslaved your fore-parents…. who built their empires on that enslavement… And whose country today is rich because of their enslavement of my great grandparents. It is upsetting that today… in 2009, you proudly swear allegiance not only to them but to their heirs and successors…

And the hypocrisy of it is that in the same breath you tell me… a born and bred Antiguan… that I cannot hold such high office because I chose to similarly swear allegiance to ‘a foreign power’.

Of course this is only one of the hypocrisies. The fact that Lester Bird could not only be elected as a parliamentarian but can hold the highest office of the land is a hypocrisy that could only have been foisted on us by a Machiavellian mind… probably that of the man he is heir to. Who… recognizing that his son was born abroad… that he had to insert… that a person who swears allegiance to a foreign power “By his own act” and not because he was born in a foreign land.

So like Lester Bird, Alan Stanford – the disgraced financial pirate -  (maybe even Data Tan and John Alan Muhammad – the DC sniper… after the ridiculously short qualification period) could not only be appointed as senators, they could be elected as parliamentarians and they could even serve (a la Lester Bird) as Prime Ministers in this land of ours.

This land of ours… Ours? Not according to those senators who swore in yesterday.. According to them this is the land of the Queen of England… and of course this land – her land - will naturally fall to “her heirs and successors”!

Let me serve notice. I am an enemy of this law. I am going to fight this law… this and any other law that disenfranchises me as an Antiguan… a born and bred Antiguan… of my birthright. Unlike Lester Bird, I have no birthright in the United States of America. My birthright, which I did not give up… by any act… is mine forever. No law will take that away.

This is the first time that I am writing on this… an issue on which I have had strong feelings… feelings too strong to even articulate… until now! This is just the beginning.

I do not serve the Queen… I never swore any allegiance to any Queen or King or heirs or successors.

But yesterday… I heard all those Antiguans… appointed to be Senators…  “by their own acts”, out of their own mouths… “Solemnly swear that they will faithfully bear ‘true’ allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, and her heirs and successors” – therefore… forever and ever more!

I am going to work to end that!

If I can’t swear allegiance to the US… then you can’t swear allegiance to the descendants of the purveyors of slavery and crimes against the my great grand parents.

We must swear allegiance to the people of Antigua and Barbuda through our Constitution…  and not to serve any master or mistress from anywhere… not even if the individual was from Antigua and Barbuda!

God Save Fair Antigua and Barbuda!

Monday, April 27, 2009

From Captain to Cook

By Sojourner

If there is one thing this economic recession should do for us here in Antigua and Barbuda, it is that we should look at how we view productivity in the public sector. The recession should help us do some should soul searching around our performance at work and the quality of the services we provide. Most importantly, no where should we benefit more from this collective introspection than from the examination of the Civil Service… and Civil Servants.

Just a few days ago the Government through its Ministry of Finance issued a declaration with respect to austerity measures that the Government and its agencies must take in order to survive these hard economic times. As hard as these measures may seem, the reality is that the Government is not taking in the kinds of revenues that are needed to sustain it. It does not have money to meet its expenses and to manage and carry out its programmes. It is having difficulties delivering on basic services. Therefore, some drastic measures must be taken: No hiring, no new contracts, no unnecessary spending and we must cut back on overtime.

Be that as it may, the reality is that Government must continue to be in business… it cannot declare bankruptcy… it cannot shut down for a month or two… and it cannot close all its offices. Teachers must teach… the police must walk their beat… sanitation workers must collect trash… And so instead of shutting down, the Government needs to seriously look at its operation and ask some very hard questions. Do we need this? What value do we derive from that? Do we need to cut here and then trim there?

For one thing, someone needs to look at the Civil Service objectively! Someone needs to lay things out schematically. How does the whole thing fit together? How does this agency/department /unit/division fit into the national development plan? What is its mandate? What is the present staff complement? Does each Civil Servant have a job description that fits into the department’s mandate? Do we have more people in a unit than necessary? What skills are needed in the department, and how does the present staff complement measure up? How are staff members performing and producing? What does each officer, from captain to cook, from permanent secretary to petty office - bring to the table? How many ‘officers’ does this unit or department really need? How many of the officers now employed put in an honest day’s work for their pay? How many of them fit the positions that they are in?

I propose that when such questions are asked… and honestly answered, it becomes clear what must be done.

I admit that this is a herculean task, and the individuals who are involved in the process must have armor like an armadillo. But desperate times deserve desperate measures… And, no one can doubt that these are desperate times… And desperate measures are needed NOW! As a matter of fact… these measures are long, long, long overdue...

  1. Some departments/divisions/units must go… They must be made redundant. Some of them simply do not serve any useful purpose, and now in these hard times… they represent a luxury we cannot afford. That may seem difficult to fathom… what audacity some might say! But when we look at the Civil Service, you have to wonder why a particular unit or department exists.
  2. Reduce the wage Bill… Cut staff!

    In our labour sensitive culture that may be political suicide. But this is one step that has to be – must be taken.

    The voluntary severance initiative was a humongous failure. This time we need to use more direct means of cutting staff… As a matter of fact… this time we need to cut the right staff members. The Civil Service is stuffed and packed like old-time sardine cans with ‘dead beats’- persons who are on the pay roll, but do nothing but show up to work, put in a few hours and at the end of the month or week they stretch their hands for the reward. And there are claims that we still have ghost workers on our payrolls.

    The truth is that Government pays out millions of dollars (reportedly over EC$30 Million dollars per month) for work not done... to people not seen. The truth also is that government pays people to be lazy, to be inefficient, and to be absent from the job. There is no accountability… and there are no consequences. There is no dressing up this truth. And these dead beats – who are unaccountable and unaccounted for - are all over the system, clogging it up like old grease and gunk in a kitchen sink!

    These dead beats can be found working as permanent secretaries, as directors, as accountants, as SEOs, as PASs; as Secretaries; as clerks, as petty officers, as cleaners, as drivers; as teachers; as police; and as nurses. They are technocrats and bureaucrats; they are consultants and special assistants; they are front line staff and “Top of the line” staff. They are everywhere. And continuing to pay these people is where Government is wasting a considerable amount of money... millions of dollars – each month.

  3. It stands to reason, therefore, that Government can save much by the proper management of its labour force:

    1. Performance appraisals are a must.

    2. Each Ministry must conduct a human resource audit. It must assess and examine its staffing needs and determine the criteria for each staffing position.

    3. Stream lining of departments so that there is adequate staff tooled with the necessary skills to do the task. This may mean that some officers will be transferred to areas where they would or could be more productive;

    4. Productivity and accountability should be core values and ingrained into the ethos of public service;

    5. A comprehensive training programme must be developed to tool the public sector to fulfill the Government’s mandate of national development and effectively deliver its programmes.

    6. Trimming the fat… Cutting those workers that are not needed, who do not add value and who do not work (yes there are many of these);

    7. Workers who have been found to be undermining the policies of the Government must be cut as well. And there are many of those too…..everywhere from captain to cook.

So our leaders have some hard decisions to make.

In reality, those hard decisions should have been made decades ago. But former administrations either did not have the courage or political will to so. And in the case of the Labour administration, they used the Civil Service as a political tool to get elected and re-elected. They also used this system of human resource mis-management to reward their political surrogates and hangers-on.

The current economic crisis has put all that behind us. If the current administration fails to act, Antigua will crash… harder than the Dow Jones stock market did!

It is important to recognize that these problems present us with hidden opportunities. This worsening economic problem has presented our leaders with the opportunity to make and foster significant changes… not just for this moment – but for the future… Not just in policies – but in practices and processes… not just in certain places… but everywhere…

Not just with the labourers, cleaners and messengers within the Civil Service… but from the top… From Captain to Cook!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Need for Speed

Political Leaders Must Master the Art of Speed!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Today the nation of Antigua and Barbuda is threatened on several fronts. On one front there is the problem of immigration… of foreign nationals moving from there (wherever) to here in order to find and make a better life. On another front we have the energy crisis with our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Then there is the historical problem we face with our water supply (some people have forgotten that this is a perennial problem). And, of course, there is the global financial meltdown that is affecting us not on one front – but on all fronts.

There never has been a time in our history when so much was demanded of our political leaders. The changes we face… and the challenges we confront demand aggressive, assertive, visionary and courageous decision making from the top. But something else is needed… something more fundamental… speed!

My 94 year old mother tells me that when she was a young girl, an immigrant would travel for more than two weeks to get from the ‘West Indies’ to London. Of course, in those days, the only way to get there was by boat. Today, that same trip takes eight hours – by air.

Every facet of our human experience has been transformed by modern innovations in technology. And most of those innovations have resulted in everything happening more quickly. Fedex can now deliver a package from the US in one day! I don’t have to travel to see my friends and family… I can see them now over the internet! I don’t have to go to the bookstore to purchase a book… I can buy it on Amazon… And I don’t have to wait for Amazon to ship it either… I can download some books right away!

Everything today is happening faster and faster. This is the age of speed… this is the time when we need our leaders to be speedy!

We cannot wait for the right decision… going in the right direction! We need decisions now… and we will correct our course as we go along. We cannot wait to see which direction the wind is blowing… before we raise the sails and get moving. No not to throw caution to the wind… but to grab hold of what wind there is.

We need to build a culture of speed in every sector of government: First we need speed in decision making at the very top… and at the top of every ministry and department.

Then, we need speed in delivery of services to consumers in every department of government. We need speed in communication within the government and from the government to the people. We need speed in responding to the current and future threats to the country and to segments of the population. We need speed in implementing new projects such as the car park, the library and those other projects some of which are still on the drawing board… We don’t need any more action plans… we need the government to act on the plans it already has… Act now.

We must build speed that matches our rhythmic style… Ours is not a reggae style… slow and sure… nope. We have a calypso rhythm… So let us develop a rhythmic decision making style that fits us… fast, adaptable… moving to the changes to the beats within our shores and addressing the challenging rhythms from the outside. And, yet within this fast rhythm – we must deliver rock steady results and outcomes.

Antigua and Barbuda must move quickly to respond to the knowledge based economy which is founded on innovation and the ability not only to generate new ideas but to build the products and deliver the services which emerge from the creative minds of our young entrepreneurs and university graduates. We must learn from experiences of our veteran workers and listen to the wisdom of our senior citizens.

We must develop the capacity to go from idea to product to delivery at light speed.

We must remove the bureaucratic prison that is our current system of government where permanent secretaries rule with an 18th Century mindset and 17th Century rules. It takes months to have a simple process completed after fifty pieces of paper have gone back and forth to be signed ten times. No country today can compete at a global level with that kind of pitch-like execution and delivery.

Our leaders must quickly identify and remove those processes – structural and political – that stymie and slow us down and prevent us from achieving success. And our leaders must remove those people with Victorian mentalities who keep us stuck in the past… who use the computer as an adding machine and see it as a typewriter with a screen.

There needs to be a sense of urgency about this.

For too long, we have accepted sloth bound decisions and mediocre results from some of our leaders. We have accepted their excuses as to why things take so long. We have embraced their explanations as to why this project or that project is still on the drawing board.

That attitude of acceptance and understanding, of indulgence and tolerance, of consideration and patience… just because we support them and just because we want to appear supportive… can no longer be the deal.

We need our leaders to embrace a culture of high tempo decision making and we need them to promote a culture of swift execution… and prompt delivery..

Antigua and Barbuda must make that transition to speed now. It is taking too long to bring those people to justice. It is taking too long to fix the airport. It is taking too long to deal with the medical students issue… (one way or another… make a decision). It has taken too long to solve our water problem. It has taken too long to get those Rural West projects going. It has taken too long to fix our electricity problem. It is taking too long bring those criminals to justice (did I mention that already?) It is taking toooooo long…

The up-tempo and percussion must start at the top… by the Chief Drummer. Let’s speed it up!

Them Antiguan Tradesmen


By Mshaka


Antiguan tradesmen: unreliable - undependable, bluffing, inconsistent, mediocre – second rate, superiority attitude, dismissive, disrespectful, inconsiderate, poor customer service… high priced!

I know that some of our readers will respond to this article with resentment… not just resentment but maybe even deep anger. I also know that others will agree with my opinions… not just agree but agree wholeheartedly.

It seems as though each time I talk with another Antiguan about the issue of our “Antiguan Tradesmen” that I hear another horror story about unreliability, mediocre work or the lies that our tradesmen tell their clients or potential clients. I won’t tell any of those stories. Why? Because I have my own litany of disappointments.

Last year, we hired a cabinet maker to redo our kitchen cupboards. As a matter of fact he was the one who had built them years ago. So who better to give the job to than him? That was the first mistake. Plus… he was local. Second mistake. And he promised a speedy job… and we believed him. Third mistake.

Well… he took off all the doors to the cupboards… took them away to sand and stain them and supposedly to put on new more beautiful hinges… or whatever they do to make them look good. He kept them… Of course he could not put them back on before he had re-sanded… and varnished or stained the cupboards themselves.

It took about three weeks for him to do the cupboards themselves… He would send someone on Monday morning to start… By mid-day the person left… and then showed up on Wednesday afternoon… Left and maybe… maybe showed up again on Friday just before 2 PM… or so. You know for what! Same thing happened the next week… and the next…

Of course during this time… all the contents of the cupboards…. foodstuff… dishes… glasses… cups… cutlery… well – you get the picture… All that stuff are in bags… temporarily placed on the table… put up here… placed over there… The place is a mess… for three weeks… Where is the salt? And, oh…. where is the baking soda… and what about the measuring cup??? Didn’t we have some of that… now where is it?

For three weeks…

Then he said he was finished with the cupboards… Of course he still had the doors… That took another week… Oh… and by the way… he took out a couple of drawers that needed new runners… those took an additional couple of weeks… How many weeks now?

That was last year… October… One door is still off… a drawer is missing…

Did I mention another mistake? He gave us a sob story… and he was paid… the full amount… Well… I wouldn’t have paid that scamp…. But… Let’s just say he was paid… So now… I will end up in court… either for our money… (that’s a civil matter)… or we are going to court… well… let’s just say… I might have to go to court for a – well – not civil matter!

Now that experience is one of many many many that I have had…

For the last couple of years, we have had a nagging problem with our plumbing. I have tried and tried and tried to get a local – Antiguan plumber. We have friends who are plumbers… we have associates who are plumbers… we even have family members who are plumbers…. all Antiguans… Do you think we could get one? Bluffing… lying… promising… every week… every month…

I needed an electrician… same thing… Promises that they will come… “Today… after three… look out for me…” That was six months ago…” Of course, I followed up. “What happened yesterday…” “Oh… something came up… I can’t do it today… how about Saturday… Yeah man… you can count on me.” He hasn’t shown up yet… not him… not his colleague… not the other three guys… all Antiguan of course!

And if you think that these issues are just about the little guy… the solo tradesman… then you have to think again. Not so. For years… I have tried to get the most prominent… longest serving Antiguan pest control company to examine and provide me with a key service. I have talked to its proprietor at least six times each year for the last five years…

“Mr. G, when are you coming to look at the house and give me your estimate…” “Oh, I will pass this afternoon… after five… I have to pass that way on my way home…” “Mr. G, what happened?” “Oh… ah… I will come first thing in the morning… I have to pass that way coming to work…” Even Mr. G’s wife now knows me… she has seen me come into the little shop/office at the corner so many times… so many times over the years! Don’t get me wrong… I have known Mr. G for thirty years… He is a nice man… but he is just like all the other Antiguan tradesmen… unreliable… undependable… bluffer!

Now I know that Mr. G, the electricians, the plumbers… don’t do that to the big customers like the hotels and the banks.

So what is it?

Do they feel that we can’t pay? Do they feel that we won’t pay? Well… we pay them what they ask… and they still don’t finish the job. Do they feel like our little jobs are not big enough? Even when times are hard for them… they still behave that way.

Again for years we have tried to get an Antiguan individual or company (doesn’t matter) to come once or twice per month to cut our grass, pull the weeds and trim the trees. This month we may get someone whom a friend recommends. The individual takes a look and charges an exorbitant price (at least, I think so). We pay it. Willingly. Part of what we are paying for is the long term commitment to provide the service every two weeks.

They come the first month and do an OK job.

The next month – we call. Now remember this is supposed to be automatic… They promise but they don’t show. Never show. Again. We get someone else. The same thing happens. Now we are on automatic… we automatically try to get a new person every month!

We got an Antiguan guy to fix the kitchen counter… he did a good job… or so it seems to me. But then he kept the remainder of the Corian… and to this day we can’t get it from him. He took a key part of a table to fix also… promising to bring it back the next day… That’s three months ago…

And the car… and our mechanic and body work friends… Well… that is a whole different story which would take a chapter or so!

What is it about our Antiguan tradesmen… what is it about our Antiguan small business men?

The sad thing is that now… today… those tradesmen have competition. Very serious competition. I needed to have some emergency carpentry work done… A friend referred a Dominican handyman. He brought three other men… scruffy looking… as if they had just come from the rum shop… but I can tell you that the job they did was quick and efficient! They were obviously hungry… maybe for food… but certainly for the work!

Our Antiguan tradesmen do not seem hungry… they don’t seem motivated to give excellent service… they don’t appear to believe in giving a good day’s work for a good day’s pay… they don’t believe in keeping their word… they come with an attitude of “I am Antiguan… I deserve this work because I am Antiguan… I can do the best job because I am Antiguan… pay me before the job is finished… because I am Antiguan… I will come back when I want to… because I am Antiguan…”

Well… I am one Antiguan who is fed up with our Antiguan tradesmen…

Because I am Antiguan I expect better from my Antiguan tradesmen and businessmen…

Because I am Antiguan and I am paying for the work being done… and because as an Antiguan… I have been taken for granted by Antiguan tradesmen and business men… And because I am Antiguan and I have been burned so many countless times by Antiguan tradesmen… I will no longer waste my time… no longer look desperately for an Antiguan to do work…

Let me tell you… this is hard… particularly given how I feel about the non-Antiguan issues we are currently experiencing. But I have been let down too many times… taken for granted too many times… disrespected too many times – by my own Antiguan tradesmen… neighbors, friends and family!

The best tradesmen will get the job… those who do as they promise. Those who keep their word…. those who deliver excellent service… those who respect me as a consumer… those who are dependable, responsible and reliable… those who do an excellent job… in excellent time with excellent results… whatever the price…

Those tradesmen and businessmen will get the job - whatever their origin… Chinese… Guyanese… Dominican… Jamaican…. Santo Dominican… or Antiguan!

If our tradesmen keep up this attitude they will soon be marginalized to the sidelines. Some are already fussing about the Chinese and Santo Dominicans… Well this is just the beginning. Someone needs to host an educational forum or training conference for our Antiguan tradesmen to read them the riot act. The Chamber of Commerce, the Antigua Employer’s Federation, the Small Business Association – somebody needs to jump in – quickly to do something about this.

These tradesmen are committing ritual suicide… every day… every week… ever month. When the big jobs go away… they will want to turn to people like me and you… too late! And the big jobs will go away as more and more builders take advantage of the growing numbers of skilled foreign nationals willing to work for cheaper wages.

Quite soon Antiguan tradesmen will no longer be able to compete with the hordes of foreign tradesmen who have been let in and are being let in to our country. By that time, people like me will have been forced to move on to other sources because of our tradesmen’s current attitudes.

And while the foreign population grows… guess who they will be hiring to work on their cars… to fix their plumbing and electricity?

Our tradesmen need to catch a glimpse of their future… the ones they are creating by their bluffing, disrespect of consumers and unreliability. Their future does not look good – at least not to me! And it is of their own making…

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Romantic Report to the Nation


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Last year Antigua and Barbuda launched Romantic Rhythms during the month of June. The festival was supposed to have attracted international visitors who were supposed to “fall in love as the lyrical beauty engulfed the entire destination.”

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda were touted to be “Love Islands” since the nation was an “award winning destination for Weddings and Honeymoons.”

The festival itself featured an international who-is-who in the music world with the likes of Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Keyshia, Brian McKnight, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley and many others. To be truthful, I am not sure that all of these artists performed… but I do know that many of them showed up and wowed the crowd.

Thousands of people attended. Antiguans that is… and maybe some visitors from around the Caribbean sea.

But did the festival attract the visitors who were the ultimate targets? Who were they? Tourists from across the Atlantic Ocean. How many of them came?

Nine months later we cannot answer that question.

It has been reported that the Government budgeted EC$3mllion for the hosting of the festival. But unconfirmed reports suggest that the festival went over budged to the tune of an additional EC$2million.

How much revenue did the ticket sales generate? Indeed, since there were so many hundreds (even thousands) of ‘complimentary’ tickets being given away, I have grave doubts about the number of tickets that were actually sold. But, I really don’t know.

And, nine months later no one seems to be able to answer that question.

Apparently, the organizers were able to secure sponsorship from many businesses. The major sponsors included Cable & Wireless, The ABI Financial Group, American Airlines, LIAT, and Chevrolet. Sponsors were categorized as Euphoria (top sponsors), Amorous, Elation and Quixotic!

The question is whether or not the sponsors got a sense of euphoria because of the return on their marketing investments? By the way, how much did they invest? In addition to the Government’s investment, how much did the organizers get from the sponsors? What was the total investment?

Nine months later, there have been no answers to that question.

So far this year, I have heard no public announcements about the staging of the festival. Will we or won’t we? Which artists will headline the event? How much will it cost the Government? Are the sponsors elated about putting their money on the line this year?

Reportedly, many small businesses that provided services at last years event are dissatisfied. What is the nature of their dissatisfaction? Is it about money?

It is clear that the people who attended got a treat… I was about to say that they got their money’s worth…. but since many of them got ‘complimentary’ tickets… Let’s just say that they got much more than they expected.

Every attendee to whom I spoke was elated and even euphoric about the performances. Yes, many of them had criticisms about the time wasted between the performances, etc. But overwhelmingly they were happy… very very happy – young, old… and in between came away planning to attend the next festival…

If this was the goal of the festival… to provide Antiguans and Barbudans with an electrifying and quixotic romantic treat… then that goal was achieved… at a cost of over five million dollars.

Let me be clear… The festival was good… very good!

Yet, if the goal was to develop an annual festival that would bring thousands of international visitors to our shores, then we need our questions answered. How many international visitors came for the inaugural show? How much money was collected at the gates? How many dollars came from sponsors? Have all the debts been paid?

Are we having another festival this year… and what are the projections about costs, number of potential visitors, and what are the projected returns on investment for sponsors? How are potential sponsors responding?

Nine months later, we are asking questions… there have been no answers… and no one seems to want to respond.

What are the numbers?

Given the economic climate that has unfolded since last year, answers to those questions are critically important.

Given the political climate in our nation at this time, and given the new dispensation’s commitment to transparency and clarity, those questions need to be answered without hesitation.

We must remember the historic and corrupt practices that we suffered during the 28 years of a previous administration. During that time, no one could get answers to questions about payments, purchases, or profits that related to public projects.

Let’s not return to those days. Let’s fulfill the promise of transparency and openness.

Answer the questions posted in this blog.

Give us the numbers… even if they are, un-romantic, even if they fail to stimulate amorous feelings within us… and even if we are not elated or euphoric…

Lets have the Romantic Report to the Nation…

To Make Ends Meet… We Must Compete!


By Mshaka


About twelve years ago I had a conversation with a group of executives that included a prominent banking official and I made a comment that prompted an angry remark from that individual.

What did I say? I told them that in the very near future Antiguans and Barbudans would have to begin acting like immigrants in our own homeland.

The banking official – a hard working professional, a stalwart community activist, and an Antiguan citizen by marriage, retorted that their children were not being raised to need two or three jobs to make it in their own country.

While I agreed with the optimism of the sentiment, I thought at the time that they had missed the point. Now, today, even more than ever, I think that my statement was prophetic.

The point I was making then, was that the many immigrants back in 1997, who were coming to our shores had started to act like Antiguans and Barbudans do when we emigrate to America or England.

In order to make ends meet in New York for example, we work two jobs… and still go to school… some of us even go full time. And that is just to make ends meet… to get ahead… we work morning, noon and night… and still go to school.

In Antigua, twelve years ago, I was beginning to see the need for us to compete in our own country… not even to get ahead… just to make ends meet!

To be truthful those are two issues… (1) to compete; and, (2) to make ends meet. The third of course would be to get ahead.

To compete? Yes… To compete with the Guyanese, Jamaicans and Spanish speaking people who had started to come to our shores in the tens…  So back then… 1997 or so…. we needed to begin to ramp up our own levels of economic activity… personal and professionals endeavors to compete with the immigrants.

And then… those people began to come in not by the tens… but by the hundreds… and now by some accounts… thousands! Of course we know that much of that was manipulated by those treacherous and treasonous political operatives under the red flag. But the reality is that some of it was driven by the global economic situation… and even more so today.

Therefore… given the huge increase in the number of immigrants – legal and otherwise – politically manipulated or economical driven – we are now in a position where Antiguan and Barbudan natives – born and bred – from Old Road and Point, from Sea View Farm to Grays Farm, from Freetown to Five Islands… all have to compete and struggle to make ends meet!

So Antiguans and Barbudans must be competitive in our own country.

While I am one of those who believe that we must rigorously control the number of new immigrants who come in and stay… I am also realistic that the major force today is not economic globalization… it is the globalization of people. People are moving everywhere… and it is a movement that cannot be stopped… It can be controlled… but not stopped.

So we must learn how to compete aggressively.

Our children must do well in school. From what I hear… some of the best students in our schools are non-native children! We have got to find a way to improve that situation. Many of our children are not motivated… and don’t seem to understand or care about the severe, lifetime liability that they are hamstringing themselves with by not focusing on educational success today. (More on this in another article).

Our professionals must learn to compete. Antiguan companies are having great difficulties filling executive positions. As a result they advertise the positions across the region and even around the world. Just check . We need to encourage our professionals to get that next level of training, that higher certification, that next degree… to get all that they need to take them to the highest levels so that they can compete with their counterparts from Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas, Jamaica and further afield – for the position of General Manager, Executive Director, Financial Controller, Human Resource Manager and other key roles.

Our mid-level professionals in government and in the private sector must do the same. They need to see themselves as ‘learning’ rather than being ‘learned.’ How do I get to the next level? What will it take? What certificates, degrees, specialized training do I need? What niche area is currently unfilled in my company? What are the niche areas need more professionals with specialized expertise?

Antiguans and Barbudans just entering the world of work, those who feel that they are stuck in low level positions, or those who are untrained and uncertified must catch-a-fire… they need to recognize that this world is different from that of 1997. If all you have are some ‘subjects’, or ‘years of experience’ then you are vulnerable and you are dispensable. Companies are looking for qualified and certified individuals who will perform, produce and deliver winning results that contribute to their bottom line.

Look at Antigua today… Who are the entrepreneurs? the most visible ones are the Jamaicans and Santo Dominicans… Bars, restaurants, vendors, auto mechanics, lawn care specialists… all foreign. And who is using their services… Antiguans of course. We are the consumers and they are the providers of services. Some of these foreigners have two jobs… (sounds familiar?) some have two or three skill sets… and they work hard… they are busy… they are creative… They have a mentality that says… “I came here to Antigua to make it… and I will do everything I have to do in order to be successful.” You ask them… Their immigrant mentality says… “I am a stranger in this country… so… If it is to be… it is up to me.”

There is a “Birdonomics” mentality in Antigua among Antiguans and Barbudans where some feel that the Government owes them a job. They feel that – just because they are Antiguan – that somebody should give them work… and if a business person does not do it… then a politician will give them some crumbs. And for too long, too many have been willing to accept ‘crumbs for votes’! That may have served the red flag politicians well… but it served to undermine the assertive and progressive spirit of a whole generation of Antiguans and Barbudans (Yes… Barbudans – you are a whole different case! More on that in an upcoming article).

A whole generation of Government workers – a whole generation of Antiguans – don’t know anything… can’t do anything.. and expect salaries – high salaries - for sitting three at a desk answering one telephone… three at a desk to handle one piece of mail or greet one customer… the remnants of Birdonomics… And some of these same people make it to Permanent Secretary… after years of doing the same thing… nothing. (Upcoming article on “The Principles of Birdonomics.” In the meantime see my February 17, 2006 article in this blog… “The Writing on the Wall”)

For Antigua and Barbuda to be competitive as a nation… our people must be competitive… we have got to be brighter to be better. We have got to be more educated and more skilled than the competition. We must work together, help mentor and train each other and foster the development of our young people forging them into internationally qualified and globally competent business persons, artisans, sports figures and entertainers. Locally… we must top everyone else… rather than coming here to teach… people should come here to learn.

We must go beyond just competing to make ends meet. We must compete to be first… to be better… then best.

And we have got to get rid of that Birdonomics mentality.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Heritage Tourism – Importance & Benefits

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Several years ago I successfully paved the way for over 100 medical doctors and their family members to visit Antigua. They were members of the Howard University Medical Association and I had persuaded them to hold their annual conference at the Jolly Beach Hotel.

Before they came they also asked me to arrange a  “heritage” tour for them. A '”heritage tour”? Yes – A Heritage Tour!

These savvy travelers had been coming to the Caribbean for years and were tired of the ‘normal tourist tours’ that mostly showcased remnants and vestiges of the European colonial past.

“No more,” they said. They wanted to see the heritage of the Africans who were brought to the Caribbean.

So, I embarked on a search for someone who could conduct this “heritage tour”. Well… it was a frustrating search. Finally, I was connected to the person at the head of our Museum. The individual, who claimed to be Guyanese, (at the head of our museum!) informed me that we could take the group to the Nelson’s Dockyard!

Well, apparently she had not understood the portion fo the request that referenced “Heritage” and “African”. So I repeated the request – slowly and in detail. She indicated to me that she had clearly understood, and that what I apparently did not know… was that many of the buildings at Nelson’s Dockyard had been built by “African slaves”.

Now… normally, I am very cool and calm… but that day… at that moment… well…

Obviously, I had to move on from that source. I got recommendations such as Betty’s Hope, Monk’s Hill and the like. I was told to contact Mr. Nicholson or his representatives… whoever they are. Of course, for ‘obvious’ reasons… (that’s another long story) I dismissed those recommendations.

Finally, it dawned on me that Pappy Sammy could help. I contacted Keithlyn Smith. After some discussion, he agreed that this was something that he could and would like to do… though he had never really done anything of this magnitude before. He was evidently qualified to give the tour our visitors wanted.

As we say… “To cut a long story short”… the “heritage tour” was an overwhelming success. Ambassador Smith took us to visit about five sites significant to the presence of the first Africans in Antigua. We visited sites at Green Castle, Bendals Village, Freeman’s Village, and the ‘healing tree’ at North Sound.

The visitors listened in awe as Ambassador Smith gave the history of each site. Many were in tears as he vividly described the suffering, the courage and the fortitude of our great, great grandparents.

These doctors, many of whom are at the top of their fields in various branches of medicine, were thrilled to learn of the ‘healing tree.’ I was amazed that that tree… revealed by Papa Sammy was still there… at the very spot… hudreds of years later.  Everyone took out coins and deposited them at the root of the tree as they silently envisioned health and longevity- while some picked and stowed away a few of the broad, shiny leaves to later apply to their arthritic backs and knees!

It has been five years since they visited. Some of them have returned and a few of them have invested in local businesses; one has taught at a medical school; and, at least one – is currently integrally involved in the administration of the new Mount St. Johns Hospital.

Over the intervening years, I have spoken with several of these doctors, and they all refer to that heritage tour as an event that they will never forget.

I have shared this story with a few people involved in the Tourist Industry… some who were administrators and decision makers at the highest level. Even with this, very few of them seem to understand the critical importance of highlighting our Antiguan and Barbudan African Heritage.

Every island in the Caribbean… every island in the world… features three things in its bid to attract tourists: Sea, sand and sun. St. Kitts has those. St. Lucia has those. Barbados has those. Hawaii has those. Fiji has those. The Solomon Islands have those.

What else does Antigua and Barbuda have that can and will differentiate it from every other island. We have our heritage. Yes… every island has its heritage… and many island nations particularly those in the Pacific ensure that they focus on, capture and present to the world the uniqueness of their heritage as an attraction.

Here in Antigua and Barbuda… we have a dual heritage. No… the European heritage is not included. We have our African heritage. And we have our native islander heritage… a heritage that I must admit that I know very little about.

So here is what we need to do.

  1. First we need to commission individuals like Dr. Reginald Murphy and Ambassador Keithlyn Smith to research, identify and document key heritage sites in our twin island state. We need them to write full descriptions on the history and importance of these sites.
  2. Then our government must select the most hallowed of these sites and place them on a protected sites list… whereby they cannot be desecrated by unbridled capitalism and greed like that which is going on between Bendals and Green Castle and at Indian Creek. Those sites would become an integral part of our “National Parks”
  3. We next need to select those sites around the country where we think visitors might be interested in and might benefit from learning about the historical facts related to each site. Those sites would be developed into tourist attractions where a National Park Ranger would conduct short educational tours. Mementos and educational materials would be developed around each site by our skilled artisans and craft experts. These would be on sale at the site. Each site would have shops, eating and rest-room facilities.
  4. At a national level our tourism product would have a major additional focus… heritage sites. Cruise ship visitors would have real choices beyond visiting the beach and a the remaining places that feature the historical presence of the racist, slave holding, European colonialists. Visitors who are currently imprisoned by hoteliers in their all-inclusive hotels will have more than just the beach and the bar to entertain them.
  5. Indeed… with heritage sites all around the country and in Barbuda… the "beach will just be the beginning”.

It seems to make sense that we should already have done these things. Why have they not been done?

As I have said above, I have talked about this to key decision-makers in the Ministry of Tourism. While they, for the most part, have no objections to the notion of ‘heritage tourism’, they indicate that many of the hoteliers may object to the idea. They also indicate that one or two of Antigua’s so-called eminent archeologists or historians (I am not sure what they would have called themselves) would and have objected to such a focus in past.

Many of those who object, embrace the European ‘heritage’ of Nelson, Codrington and Baldwin as Antigua and Barbuda’s heritage. These people argue that to raise the issue of African heritage is to be divisive. They say we don’t need to talk about the slaves who were hanged at Bendals and we need not speak of the first council that was held between Freeman’s village and Sea View Farm. Nope… we only need to focus on Monks Hill, Fort James and… oh yes… Betty’s Hope. (Who was Betty anyway? She certainly wasn’t either of African origin or a native Carib…)

I totally reject those arguments.

“For here in Antigua, we boast of a Heritage Quay built by Italians, entirely in Italian architectural style, and we have had the sheer gall to name this Italian conceived, designed and executed shopping mall: Heritage Quay. There is nothing Caribbean about it. Nothing African. It is entirely alien in conception and execution, and yet this alienated structure is labeled our Heritage.” Tim Hector, Fan the Flame: October 25, 1996 .

For the first time, Antiguans and Barbudans must take control not only of our future but of our past… our heritage. We must choose those things which we want – the majority of us – to identify who we are, where we are from and where we are going.

If our tourism product is to be successful it must feature more than sea, sand and sun. It must feature who we are. All of who we are and not just the European side of our history. I want my story told to the tourists who come here… and I know that they would be intrigued… would want to know… would want to see… would want to touch… would want to feel… my story… Papa Sammy’s story… not just Nelson’s or Betty’s for that matter.

If the responses of the doctors of the Howard University Medical Association are to be used as a guide… then Heritage Tourism will help to reinvigorate our main economy – even in these hard times. Yes… I know what one segment of the critics will say, behind their hands, about these doctors… “They were all African American…. of course they would have been interested in the African Heritage…”

In Washington, DC the vast majority of the people who visit the Holocaust Museum are not Jews… they are Japanese, Chinese, British, Canadian, German, Russian, Australian, South African, Nigerian, African American…. They are from California, Hawaii, Montana, Alaska…

The people who visit Antigua and Barbuda come here… not to see Nelson or Betty’s Hope… they come to see whatever we have to show them… They come to see what’s different about us…. and what’s different from them and from where they are from… They come to be intrigued, inspired, educated and entertained. They come because they are curious, they want knowledge, and yes… because they want to relax.

The sea, sand and sun… will help with the relaxation. Calypso Joe and Franco will help with the entertainment. And, through Heritage Tourism we will satisfy their curiosity,  help them gain knowledge and be educated, and hopefully they will also be intrigued, inspired and persuaded to see Antigua and Barbuda as unique. 

And… in the meantime… they will spend their money for those blessings… And they will spend their dollars outside of those all-inclusive hotels on the artistic and historical creations designed and crafted by our local artisans.

“It continues to amaze me, that in 1996, children are taught ad nauseam, about the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina. These same children who are taught about these three European boats, know nothing about the three great West African Empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhay.” Tim Hector, Fan the Flame: October 25th, 1996.

Yes Tim… It continues to amaze me that our children are not taught our history… the history of Antiguans and Barbudans – I mean our history… rather than his-story… the limited, partially told story of the Europeans in Antigua and Barbuda which have been and still is forced on our children.

Heritage tourism will help to correct that in such a way that our children will know… They will learn about King Court, Prince Klaas, Tomboy, Hercules and Fortune. They will learn the real story of their forefathers… they will learn about much more than the ‘weedie weedie bush’ and Moody Stuart….

Let us focus on reclaiming our heritage and then use it to generate income through our tourist industry.

Develop heritage tourism. Start the process now!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Foreign Service Must Evolve!


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


While it is understood that the historical role of our diplomatic ambassadors is to serve as official representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, the changing realities of our economic and developmental challenges necessitate that this role evolves in much, much more.

In recent times we have seen some of our more able ambassadors play key roles, not only in ceremonial capacities, but in other roles such as negotiating critical and strategic agreements with foreign governments for social and economic projects. These foreign service officials bring a dynamic, action and results oriented perspective to their portfolios.

However, those ambassadors are in the minority.

Instead, most of our ambassadors seem to see themselves either as representatives who play ceremonial roles or who are involved in ‘representative activities’ where they attend meetings, conferences and social gatherings, or ‘represent’ our nation at celebratory activities hosted by other countries.

The majority of these ambassadors also see their role as that of ‘representing the views and concerns’ of our Government and spend a lot of time articulating those views to the power structures in the countries to which they are attached.

Many of these ambassadors have fitted into the comfortable roles that their predecessors appointed by the previous ALP administrations have always played. They have embraced the mantle of pomp, circumstance, and importance with which their positions come. Yes… it is important to represent our nation at some of the events to which they are invited… and to be present at the table… But, over the years that I have observed some of them here in Washington, too many have seen this social, ceremonial and philosophical representational role… as the role.

That needs to change. As a matter of fact… they should not have a role… but a job description with timelines, deliverables, performance factors and measurable outcomes!

A small nation like Antigua and Barbuda cannot afford to have ambassadors who play primarily philosophical, social and ceremonial roles. In this I am referring to both resident and non-resident ambassadors, and ambassadors-at-large. The country can only afford a handful of ambassadors at home or abroad. So we need those few to deliver big… to deliver the kinds of projects that impact hundreds of our citizens… in big ways.

A few of our current ambassadors ensure that they are able to secure a few tit-bits of aid for groups or government departments at home. Maybe a fire-truck last year, an ambulance last month, a police motor bike at the end of the year – all delivered with pomp and high ceremony. Yes… these are feel-good and look-good gifts from other countries. Good.

Yet, what we really need are ambassadors who negotiate bilateral agreements and develop international relationships that translate into major sustainable developmental projects for small business and communities. We don’t need fishes… we need the training and sustainable support mechanisms that will allow us to do our own fishing using modern day technological advancements.

Ambassadors who reside in other countries must bring a new perspective to their jobs. Rather than adopting the historically egotistical, puffed-up and self-centered attitude of some of their predecessors, they should embrace a creative and marketing oriented outlook whereby everything they do is about promoting the nation – not for the sake of international stature… but for the sake of economic growth and national development.

To foster this, I suggest the following:

  1. Involve Antiguans and Barbudans who reside in their jurisdiction in every aspect of their efforts to market and promote our country. We literally have an army of volunteers who can be involved in every aspect of the work that embassies and consulates are tasked to do. There are qualified Antiguans and Barbudans all over the world who have waited… and are waiting… and are willing to do their part… to contribute to our country’s development. Involve them. Identify Antiguans and Barbudans who would volunteer to be leaders in a variety of projects that would benefit small businesses, and people in communities at home.
  2. Every resident ambassador should see himself/herself as a marketing executive who represents our nation to “proven”, Fortune 1000 companies and their executives and to ‘blue-chip’ investors. Ambassadors need training in a variety of skills including how to present and marketing our country.
  3. Every ambassador – resident and non resident – should develop a business plan… Yes… a business plan than indicates what he/she is going to do over the next three years, what area of the economy or national development he or she will target, what the projected deliverables will be and the timelines for such deliverables.
  4. If ambassadors are going to focus on such things as seeking scholarships (or overseeing scholarships as some are doing…) they must be able to provide (in dollars and cents) the short and long term benefits to our nation of such scholarships. This is to ensure that we are able to provide the nation with the most qualified, certified and trained workforce possible. We must also avoid current and past mistakes. How many more medical doctors can our nation sustain? How about graduate degrees in agriculture, nursing (rather than importing nurses), educational administration, mental health, civil engineering, small business development and entrepreneurship… etc.?
  5. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be managed by professionals who respond quickly to the needs of our ambassadors. The current status where everything moves like pitch… where nothing gets done quickly (if ever), where Permanent Secretaries rule as  hold overs from the 1940s must change. The ministry too must evolve.

Our Foreign Service Officers are our frontline representatives to the rest of the world. Therefore, we must put our best (professional, qualified, can deliver, proven) people in those exalted positions so that they can deliver exalted outcomes! We must task them with a new and different mandate… a mandate to bring home the kinds of results that will give Antigua and Barbuda visible and measurable returns on its investment in them.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Farewell My Neighbor


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


It is with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of Lionel Gomes. He was a gentle-man, a family man… a good man.

He was also a stalwart – in politics, in the labour union, in calypso and in the affairs of Greenbay and Grays Farm.

Of course, when I was growing up, I didn’t know that Lionel… I knew Lionel as my next door neighbor… my quiet, reserved – yet forthright neighbor.

Why forthright? Well… though he was quiet and mostly spoke in a soft voice, when it was necessary he could be firm and forthright. And that came out in his demeanor, his voice, and his actions.

When he moved his family away from Perry’s Bay, Lionel still maintained his presence and interest in the neighborhood. He became involved in community issues and solidly supported and was committed to Baldwin Spencer in his early efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people of Greenbay and Grays Farm.

Over the years and since I moved away from the area… I did not see him regularly. But each time we met it was in our old neighborhood… chatting with Mr. Nicholas and his wife – an elderly couple – our old neighbors who still live – well – next door; or he was visiting or attending a meeting at the constituency branch office; or he was involved in or lending his support to some other meaningful and creative community project. 

The last time we met it was about 50 yards away from where we had spent so many years living side by side. As I looked into his eyes… even though I knew that he was fighting… his spirit was strong and I could see that he was still forthright, still rallying for the people of the neighborhood, still concerned about our issues… our children, the crime, the need for development…

And most of all… he was still giving his all – his total support and unequivocal commitment to his friend… who is now the nation’s Prime Minister.

Lionel Gomes… steadfast… resolute… peaceful… committed…

Farewell Lionel – my neighbor. Rest in peace.